Sunday, June 2, 2024


The first time I became aware of Soledad was while watching TV or a movie or a movie on TV. Some thug said, “I just got out of Soledad,” which I understood to mean the same as, “I just got out of San Quentin.”  Ever since then Soledad = prison town to me, as if that were the only thing there.

While there is a prison there — or what is now a minimum security training center — Soledad is primarily a farming town, with all the usual amenities. I stopped there because three of the amenities I needed were conveniently clustered within a couple of blocks: groceries, propane, and self-serve car wash.

I usually maintain what I call “a protective layer of grime” on the Rolling Steel Tent. But the road to the ridge top campground was very dusty. The van was like the Peanuts character, Pigpen, with a cloud of dirt trailing behind. Also, the solar panels were coated. So I sprayed down the van with just the rinse setting. No need to go overboard with soap and stuff.

The dusty road, with switchbacks

Whenever I stop mid-travel to do errands there’s a good chance inertia will take over and I won’t want to continue down the road. So even though I hadn’t even had lunch yet I called it a day and parked in one of the streetdocking spots recommended online.

Resting instead of driving gave me more time to think about the next leg of the trip. The Silicon Valley-San Francisco-Marin County corridor was sitting to the north like a tumor. The best way around most of it is Highway 1 along the coast rather than US101 — the clogged aorta through the heart of the beast.  And, oh yeah, it would be Sunday, so I could repeat the tactic I used to get past Los Angeles: start early when traffic is very light.

Surfers are always out early

Things went smoothly, even with patches of fog and all the traffic lights in Santa Cruz. The overcast finally parted and I was lured to stop at one of the beaches. Stop and enjoy, don’t just drive by like I had done many times before because I had someplace I needed to be. And if I couldn’t tear myself away until late in the day, I had some streetdocking spots pinned in Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. I could crawl through San Francisco and cross the Golden Gate some other time.

Short rainbow

Pelicans struggling upwind

But after a couple of hours the voice in my head that was saying I needed to keep moving won out and I continued on. Back into the fog and the traffic that had increased while I was staring at the waves. And now there were bicyclists. First solo riders and pairs, then clusters, then a constant stream. Ah-ha, these weren’t just Sunday riders, it was an event. Somewhat luckily for me, most of them were on the opposite shoulder. But we drivers needed to be watchful and slow down.

I’m writing this from a parking lot in Half Moon Bay. The magic low-traffic hours have passed and I’m trying to decide whether I want to go ahead and slog through The City or call it a day again. There will be commute traffic Monday morning but most of it will be going the other way.

On the way out of San Francisco I’ll pass both Alcatraz and San Quentin. Appropriate metaphors for escaping the driving mess of the Bay Area.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate San Francisco. I loved the years I lived there. But living there is a different — and much more enjoyable — experience than driving through it.

Deep breath. Exhale slowly…

Okay, I’ll continue on today. Get it over with, because it’ll only be worse during the work week. But first, lunch.

UPDATE: I went all the way to Point Reyes Station. As expected, traffic absolutely crawled along 19th Avenue/Hwy 1, and there was a major clog in Mill Valley because of people wanting to go to Muir Woods, Mount Tamalpais, Stinson Beach and such. After that, the narrow twisting road was busy but flowing well. 

I was surprised when I reached Point Reyes Station. Streets were blocked and parking was almost nonexistent because they were having some sort of western festival. But I found an excellent streetdocking spot. This will be my hub for a few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment